All posts by CHOC Children's

Meet Dr. Micaela Thordarson

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Micaela Thordarson, lead psychologist, ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s. 

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from UCLA with a minor in Spanish. I earned my PhD and master’s degree in clinical psychology from Palo Alto University with a specialization in children, adolescents and families. I completed my pre-doctoral internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and my post-doctoral fellowship with Geisinger Health Systems in Pennsylvania.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: I am particularly passionate about working with high-risk pediatric patients. I have done a great deal of work with suicidal and self-harming youth and their families. As a bilingual clinician in Spanish and English, I am also very interested in the interactions between mental health and cultural identities, for example, race/ethnicity, gender, religion and age.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: I joined CHOC in October 2017.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Depression, anxiety, and major life stressors are the most common difficulties our patients face.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about the ASPIRE® Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s?

A: Our eight-week intensive outpatient mental health treatment program – the only pediatric-dedicated one of its kind in Orange County — is designed to serve a broad range of emotional and behavioral difficulties for high-school aged teens 13-18. It includes individual and family sessions, and crisis support as needed. If the teens and families you serve could possibly benefit from an intensive program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Additionally, we aim to collaborate closely with all the important stakeholders in our patients’ lives. This includes primary care physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, educators and coaches.

Q: What would you most like patients and families to know about ASPIRE®?

A: While our program is hard work, it’s pretty fun to be a part of! The daily after-school programming for teens and their families is all interactive, including art and other expressive therapies, and designed to teach and practice new skills in fun ways.

Q: What excites you most about the program?

A: I am so excited to be able to offer a very important service to teens and families who are in crisis and need extra support. The program we offer is guided by research and has been carefully constructed to generate the best outcomes possible.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC?

A: I have worked with a number of different organizations and teams since I began my career in the mental health field. The team at CHOC is unparalleled in its enthusiastic dedication to innovation and excellence in the care of children.

Q: Why did you decide to become a psychologist?

A: I fell in love with the field of psychology immediately after taking my first job at a crisis shelter for teens. Getting to witness, and even participate in, the incredible changes these youths made in their lives in a few short weeks was inspirational. I knew that was work I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my career.

Q: If you weren’t a psychologist, what would you be and why?

A: Either a zookeeper, so I could spend time with cool animals every day, or a Disney princess at one of the theme parks so I could wear awesome costumes and play with kids all day.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: I love spending time with my family, hiking with my dog, and eating delicious food. I have a huge family and we have a lot of fun together!

To contact Dr. Thordarson, or to refer a patient, please call 714-509-8481.

CHOC Launches Mental Health Intensive Outpatient Program

A new intensive outpatient program at CHOC Children’s will offer solutions to teenagers and their families seeking hope and intervention for emerging mental health problems.

The ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s is designed for teens who show moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.

Participants ages 13 to 18 attend after-school programming for three hours a day, four days a week in sessions that span eight weeks total.

Run by experienced, licensed clinicians who specialize in working with teens, ASPIRE incorporates therapy, mindfulness exercises, coping and problem-solving skills, art therapy and other expressive therapies to help teens develop and practice healthy behaviors and how to manage their feelings, emotions and personal interactions.

Parents or guardians also participate in family counseling and skills groups two days a week in the late afternoon and early evening.

A board-certified adolescent psychiatrist is also available for consultation and medication management, as is case coordination with other medical providers and the teen’s school, and crisis support.

Teens who could benefit from the program may exhibit a range of behaviors:

  • Moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Extreme emotional outbursts
  • Significant conflict with family or friends
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Decreases in functioning at home or school
  • Self-harming behaviors, such as cutting, burning, pulling out hair, excessive picking and scratching the body to cause bleeding

Time in the program is spent on identifying interventions that can aid participants in a variety of ways:

  • Improve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Improve functioning at home, school, and with friends
  • Develop new skills to cope with stress.
  • Establish new and healthy behaviors to learn how to manage feelings, emotions, and personal interactions.

ASPIRE® is a component of CHOC’s landmark pediatric mental health system of care launched in spring 2015 to ensure children, adolescents and young adults with mental illness get the services and support they need.

The system of care also includes outpatient support for patients whose physical conditions are complicated by mental health challenges; mental health screenings for all 12-year-olds at their well child visits with CHOC pediatricians; and an increased presence of psychologists and social workers in the Julia & George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

The cornerstone of the wide-ranging effort is the CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, set to open this spring at CHOC Children’s Hospital. With 18 beds, it will be the first unit in Orange County to accommodate children younger than 12.

Call 714-509-8481 to refer a patient to the ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s.

Meet Dr. Nita Doshi

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists— today, meet Dr. Nita Doshi, a pediatric cardiologist with expertise in fetal cardiology.

Dr. Nita Doshi
Dr. Nita Doshi, a board certified pediatric cardiologist at CHOC with expertise in fetal cardiology.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended medical school at University of California, Irvine. I completed my pediatric residency internship, categorical pediatric residency, and pediatric cardiology fellowship at University of California at Los Angeles Mattel Children’s Hospital School of Medicine.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: Fetal cardiology, non-invasive cardiology including infant and pediatric transthoracic echocardiography, transesophageal echocardiography, pediatric pulmonary hypertension, and pediatric heart failure.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Eight years.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?

A: My team provides state-of-the-art ultrasound technology and comprehensive fetal cardiac imaging protocol for evaluation and diagnosis of fetal cardiac disease. We offer the only comprehensive fetal cardiology services in Orange County, including performing fetal echocardiograms on pregnant women. When necessary, we partner with families on prenatal palliative care planning for specialized cases. We also support continuity of care of prenatal patients with their primary obstetrical and perinatology teams when appropriate.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, atrioventricular canal defect, bicuspid aortic valve and aortic valve stenosis, coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary valve stenosis, tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, truncus arteriosus, pulmonary hypertension, and cardiomyopathy.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you or your division at CHOC?

A: I treat every patient and family as though they are my very own.  This connection is what has allowed to us create such an amazing network of heart families.  I am proud to serve as a member of a supremely talented and highly subspecialized team of cardiologists.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?

A: CHOC offers the ability for physicians such as me to serve a widely diverse patient population inside and outside of the county.  There is a unique and exceptional opportunity for one-on-one personalized care here at CHOC that doesn’t exist in other centers.  In this role, I am honored to learn from my patients and families every day, including aspects of their backgrounds, cultures, spectrum of disease, and their perspectives.  These are lessons that make me a stronger person and professional to support families in the future.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A: My parents are exceptional role models.  They remind me to this day that when I was eight years old, I informed them I wanted to take care of babies and their hearts.  They are still not quite sure from where the specific inspiration stemmed (perhaps because they are also in the health profession), but they said that I was determined to follow through on this goal, and I did.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: My two-year-old daughter and my husband are my life.  We play, cook, travel, and explore every aspect of the outside world together.  We pride ourselves on learning every trade possible that enhances our lives.  We have remodeled our entire home with our own bare hands, cook our meals from scratch, and thoroughly enjoy every aspect of creative design (event planning and decorating and all things arts and crafts).

Q: What have you learned from your patients, or what is the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?

A: One of the funniest moments was when my 4-year-old patient being wheeled into the operating room to undergo a heart transplant asked me if they could put “mac n’ cheese” in her IV.

American College of Surgeons Grants CHOC Prestigious Trauma Center Verification

CHOC Children’s Hospital has been verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level II pediatric trauma center.  This achievement recognizes CHOC’s commitment to providing the highest quality trauma care to injured patients.  CHOC opened its trauma center in 2015.  It is Orange County’s only trauma center focused exclusively on children.

To earn verification, CHOC submitted an extensive application and data.  This was followed by a site visit from a team of surgeons.  They commended CHOC for exceptional work in several areas, including support by the medical staff, nursing educational excellence and the commitment of hospital administration.

Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, and Amy Waunch., MSN, FNP, CEN, trauma program manager
Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, and Amy Waunch., MSN, FNP, CEN, trauma program manager

“Our team of pediatric subspecialists, nurses and staff are dedicated to providing the highest levels of care to   seriously injured children, from the moment they arrive to the day they go home.  Our goal is to give each patient the best chance of survival and recovery,” says Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, CHOC. “We are honored to serve the children and families in Orange County, and are proud to join an elite group of hospitals committed to improving pediatric trauma care.”

As a verified Level II pediatric trauma center, CHOC is a referral resource for communities in Orange County and surrounding regions, and provides:

  • 24-hour coverage by board-certified pediatric trauma surgeons and quick access to pediatric specialties including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, and critical care
  • Injury prevention and education to the community
  • Continuing education and training for trauma staff
  • Substance abuse screening and patient intervention

CHOC’s trauma center also meets verification standards based on its patient volume and comprehensive quality assessment program.

To be designated a Level II pediatric trauma center, CHOC goes above and beyond to meet the requirements set by Orange County Emergency Medical Services by offering the following.

  • An award-winning pediatric intensive care unit providing intensive and acute care to critically ill surgical and medical patients
  • State-of-the=art operating rooms for performing immediate or emergency surgery using the latest and safest procedures
  • Support services, including child life, social services and psychology, for pediatric patients and their families dealing with traumatic situations
  • Additional hospital services, including a blood bank, radiology and rehabilitation services

Learn more about CHOC’s trauma center.

CHOC Doctor’s Day Celebration, March 30

In recognition of Doctor’s Day, we would like to take the opportunity to recognize CHOC Children’s physicians for their dedication to the patients and families we serve. Each day they offer hope and healing through their compassionate and world-class care.

CHOC physicians are invited to attend a special Parisian-inspired luncheon, held on Friday, March 30, at 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., at CHOC Children’s Hospital, in the Wade Education Center (located on the second floor of the CHOC West/Clinic Building). A recognition ceremony will begin promptly at noon.

Additionally, a photographer will be available on site to take professional head shots.

Please RSVP by Friday, March 22 to CHOC Business Development, at, or 714-509-4291.